Actress and model Vanessa Lai started out at a very young age as a dancer and later got into modeling and acting, in her words; as a “fluke.” However, it was a good fluke because since she began modeling in 2002, she’s built an impressive portfolio which includes her stints as a model for Svedka vodka, and appearances in Volo magazine and Asian Mystique calendars.
Since beginning her acting career in 2009, Vanessa has appeared in the HBO series Body Language and TV series Lingerie.One of her most horrific characters is in Jamie Carswell’s FM Andy, which recently premiered at the Royal cinema in Toronto. Coverage shows that it was met with a good turnout of supporters, just in time for the Halloween season, as Vanessa describes it as a “pretty twisted” movie.
Her most recent role is as a vampire in the Babak Payami horror, Manhattan Undying. Slated for release next year, the story centers on a vampire who seeks out an artist to paint her portrait so she can see her image for the very first time. Even though she wasn’t cast as the artist in that one, painting is among Vanessa’s talents and she’s also one of the best selfie-takers I’ve ever seen. In fact, the above photo is courtesy of Vanessa, herself.
CHRIS CHARLES: Thanks for doing this Vanessa! Also congratulations on the recent premiere of FM Andy.
VANESSA LAI: Thank you! The FM Andy premiere was great. I’ve never been able to make it to any screening of my past work. So it was really a nice treat to see how everything came together on the big screen and of course, seeing the cast and crew again after so many years was just so great. It’s a pretty twisted movie!
CHRIS: Who was your character and what was it like making that one?
VANESSA: I play Cheryl. She’s a creepy one. She’s a mash up of an eyeless nurse and a porcelain doll. She’s just so out there I really loved playing her. It was a whole new experience being Cheryl. It took about four to five hours each day for me to get my make up and prosthetics put on. I got to chat a lot with Jen the make up artist. Every day after seeing my own reflection I was in awe, she really did an amazing job. Figuring out how to be Cheryl was pretty organic after seeing myself in the make up. It was such a great production to be a part of, we did some horribly gross things to each other.
CHRIS: Hmm, I’ll have to put that on my “to see” list. So, I see you currently have one movie in post-production entitled Manhattan Undying.
VANESSA:Manhattan Undying is another horror film. It’s about Vampires, starring Luke Grimes. I play a vampire slave. I love how the horror genre throws some real sexiness into it. They made me look like such a fierce beast in this, and I happen to be a lesbian in this film too!
CHRIS: Another one on the list. What project are you currently working on?
VANESSA: Right now I’m currently traveling and writing. I am still working in TV, as well.
CHRIS: Is horror your favorite genre?
VANESSA: It’s one of them for sure!
CHRIS: There’s something I’m confused about. You’re sometimes billed as “Vanessa Lai Fox” such as at your IMDb page. Also at your IMDb page, it states that you’re the younger sister of the British singer and model Samantha Fox, which I assume is an error. I mean, your bio states you were born and raised in Toronto and the two of you obviously couldn’t be blood-related sisters. Not full, at least. So, would you please let me know where did “Fox” come from and if you are somehow related to the British singer/model Samantha Fox, would you please shine some light on that?
VANESSA: The last name “Fox” is a stage name I chose when I was making shows like Lingerie and Body Language. I wanted to keep my identity private at that time.
CHRIS: I see. Also, while doing research on you I found there’s a Vanessa Lai on the board of the Toronto organization, Kitsilano Neighborhood House. Her photo so closely resembles you, I would think that she could be mistaken for you or vice-versa. It ever happen before?
VANESSA: Haha, well personally, I don’t really think we look alike. I’ve never been mistaken for this person before, but if she wants to be my body double she can give me a call.
CHRIS: You have a strong dance background, beginning when you were a child. Would you still consider yourself a dancer first and foremost?
VANESSA: In some ways, I do. When I listen to music I still hear it with hears of a dancer first and foremost. As far as who I am as a performer I would still say being a dancer is one of my strong suits. It will always be my first love but right now I am focusing my energy more on acting.
CHRIS: Do you still compete in dance competitions?
VANESSA: Very rarely. But I love a good impromptu dance off.
CHRIS: You have a very large modeling portfolio. What have been some of your most memorable shoots?
VANESSA: I love doing anything really conceptual. I’m a bit bossy so I’ll admit when it’s more of a collaborative idea that’s when I really start bringing it. I love coming up with ideas with photographers. I’d say the more creative and out there the more I fall in love with it. I did one shoot called “Beauty and the Beast.” The photographer was from New York and she knew exactly what she wanted, she just wanted one killer shot for her portfolio. She had paid such attention to details and was just so great to work with. She knew exactly what she wanted and I really respect that when I see it in a person. I also have a few photographers that I shoot often with. It’s always quite memorable when you are working amongst friends. My friend Anthony Taylor and I came up with this crazy shoot where I am sitting on my little pony, our friend Shawn Berry was kind enough to Photoshop us a pony. It was something that just came together so well and was totally me.
CHRIS: Have you ever recognized in public from a calendar, magazine, etc. you’ve appeared in?
VANESSA: Yes, that has happened before.
CHRIS: Do you have any plans to branch out someday and work behind the camera, as well as in front?
VANESSA: I do. I think it would be great to be part of a team of writers for a show. I might be better suited for that actually …according to many online quizzes.
CHRIS: What are some of your favorite hang-outs in Toronto?
VANESSA: Huge fan of Woodbine Beach and Hanlans Point. Clothing optional should always be an option, I think. I like walking through the distillery district, it has such a cool vibe, and I mean there’s so much art there whats not to love. I also like watching people blow glass there, I find that really cool to watch. The hideout is great to hang out and check out cool live music. But probably anyone who knows me would say Big Daddy’s (Bourbon Street Bistro & Oyster Bar) is my favorite place. It’s this wicked restaurant, all voodoo style. Super cool. I’m in Kensington market pretty often too. I go for the churros, I stay for the market.
CHRIS: Have you ever considered living anywhere else, such as LA, if your career really took off?
VANESSA: I would love to move if that’s where my career took me. I have no ties to being in one place.
CHRIS: I understand you enjoy target shooting?
VANESSA: I do enjoy firing off a few rounds. I’ve only shot guns inside a range though. I have to say… I do not think I am suited for an AR. However, me and a shotgun seem to get along just fine. I really do love it though. It’s such a challenge.
CHRIS: Do you have any other skills, interests, or hobbies that most people don’t know about?
VANESSA: I doubt people know about most of them. I’m a bit of a loner. I enjoy painting. I’ve been trying to slowly figure that out. Surfing, when I can. Living in Canada makes that a very hard hobby to have, but that was something I instantly loved the second I tried it. I like making costumes and jewellery. Traveling is a huge hobby of mine I spend a lot of time looking at destinations. I do like gaming although I haven’t had much time to play. I got so into Wolf Among Us for a bit though.
CHRIS: Do you have things on a “bucket list?”
VANESSA: Hang out at the Great Barrier Reef, go on a humanitarian mission, cave diving, stay in a jungle, have a piece of writing published, and see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert.
CHRIS: Halloween’s coming up. Any plans?
VANESSA: Haunted houses for sure!!
CHRIS: With that, I thank you again for doing this, Vanessa. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
VANESSA: Sure, anytime. I’d like to shout out anyone that’s been in my life these past few years. Without their love and encouragement it would be easy to give up. I’d like to say that finally having people in your corner and that believe in you is one of the things in life is one of the greatest gifts.
CHRIS: Oh, just one more question: Have you ever worn a tutu all day just because you felt like it? VANESSA: Yes.
At Target Sports Canada
From a “sweet” shoot with ART Photography earlier this year
One of a few candid shots taken by a photographer last May, after Vanessa caught his eye. Says Vanessa: “I was randomly doing my thing in the park on Friday and a photog took some candids of me. It’s really interesting to see what you look like when you think no one is watching.” Photo credit: Photone Photography.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.